A paean to pubs

Afternoon Libturdfest . . . .

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They matter far more than you might realize.

Due to the draconian responses to COVID-19, America has been seeing the temporary triumph of the new ax wielders. A whole network of institutions that are the bedrock of neighborhoods are under attack, including shops, bars, pubs, restaurants, concert halls, movie theaters and churches. Even some church choirs are silenced by a ‘no singing’ rule.

The smashers of neighborliness and camaraderie are, like Carrie Nation, doing so in the name of righteousness and the improvement of American’s physical health—a principle that seems fair enough.

But if the health of Americans was truly the issue, there would not be so much arbitrariness and inconsistent application of rules and regulations. The people who are under the laws of the new Prohibition can see the inconsistencies clearly. It seems odd to them that COVID-19 virus is apparently far more active in churches, small businesses, and eateries, than it is in densely packed crowds of protestors whose righteous ideology apparently immunizes them from the virus’s deleterious effects.

It even would be acceptable if it were a sensible means of protecting one’s and others’ health. Most reasonable people are open to sensible precautions. But even when the State has allowed the denizens of the cities and small towns it is “protecting” from the virus to gather, government officials continue to regulate venues in ways that have nothing to do with health but which make the public discourse and camaraderie of bars, cafes and eateries nearly impossible.

For example, recently the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board updated their COVID guidelines to define the acceptable purchase of alcohol at a restaurant or bar. If you want a drink, you have to purchase a meal, defined as “food prepared on the premises, sufficient to constitute breakfast, lunch or dinner.” Just to be absolutely clear, “a snack, such as pretzels, popcorn, chips, or similar food, does not meet the definition of a meal.” Also, no drinking after eating your meal! “Additional drinks may be purchased while the customer is consuming the meal, but no further drinks may be purchased after the meal is finished.”

Not only is the customer told when, where and how to eat and drink, but more arbitrary regulations ensure no friendly give and take is allowed. Customers who formerly enjoyed shoulder-to-shoulder, elbow-to-elbow discussions have been replaced with expressionless, masked and muffled anonymous clients who sit at tables six feet apart from one another, only daring to lower their masks to eat, not to talk. Meanwhile, the familiar senior citizen coffee klatsches at McDonald’s have been abruptly disbanded and sausage biscuits are now impersonally dispensed from the takeout window.

What do all of the minute regulations have to do with public health? Not very much.

One cannot help but wonder if in addition to suppressing free discourse, something else is at work; namely H.L. Mencken’s view of puritanism, which he called “The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.”

People who knew who you are and with whom you amiably rubbed elbows at the bar or in the pew, are now excised from your life. At the local café, it’s been your neighbor you’ve been talking with. It’s your neighbor whose business you’ve been supporting. The camaraderie, humor and mutuality of belonging to the human race is there at the local tavern. The mutuality of the faith community that recites creeds, sings hymns and prays together is found when meeting in person, not in cyberspace. ‘Tavern’ and ‘tabernacle’ spring from the same Latin root, taberna.

Just as bad, the demise of the familiar pub, the neighborhood restaurant and cafes; and the shutting down of church fellowships seems to have left protest marches as the only viable outlets for free speech.

Something is profoundly wrong with a society when the only acceptable and freely chosen social gatherings are protest marches rather than humble camaraderie as the unifying emotion. Something’s desperately amiss when the chief form of socialization is angry protest. It’s on the local level that true diversity exists, not on the macro stage with blaring megaphones drowning out all other voices.

Those whom you would rule, you first make afraid: dehumanize them, demoralize them, isolate them, confine them, terrorize them. Anybody out there seriously think the Left doesn’t understand all that, better than anybody ever has?

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